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Minister slams ‘militant secularism


LONDON EUROPE is threatened by a wave of “militant secularism” and religion should play a bigger role in public life, a British Cabinet minister said on Tuesday, the latest British politician to embrace a subject long viewed as a political minefield.

Sayeeda Warsi said “Europe needs to become more confident in its Christianity.” “You cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes,” she said in an article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“My fear today is that a militant secularisation is taking hold of our societies,” she added, accusing some atheists of having the same intolerant instincts as authoritarian regimes.

Warsi, a Muslim who is a prominent member of the Conservative Party, is leading a delegation of British government ministers to the Vatican this week. The group is due to meet Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday.

Just under 72 percent of respondents to the 2001 British census‚ the last for which full results are available‚ identified themselves as Christian. But most Britons are not regular churchgoers, and‚ unlike in the United States‚ religion is not considered a vote-winning issue.

For years political leaders have largely heeded the famous advice of Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Alastair Campbell: “We don’t do God.” But there are signs of change. Prime Minister David Cameron recently urged the Church of England to lead a revival of traditional Christian values to counter the “slow-motion moral collapse” that led to the August riots in England.

Warsi said religion had been “neglected, undermined and yes, even attacked” by recent British governments.

In extracts from a speech she will deliver in Rome, she said that spirituality had been “suppressed,” and Britain had become a place “where, in the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, faith is looked down on as the hobby of ‘oddities, foreigners and minorities.’” The British Humanist Association on Tuesday , condemned Warsi’s comments as “chauvinist and unnecessarily divisive.” “In an increasingly nonreligious and at the same time diverse society, we need policies that will emphasise what we have in common as citizens rather than what divides us,” said its chief executive, Andrew Copson.

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